Does the Music Market have the Tools to Thrive in this New Age? - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Does the Music Market have the Tools to Thrive in this New Age?

Does the Music Market have the Tools to Thrive in this New Age?

“We need change. Songwriters, producers and artists can’t survive on what they are being paid.”1

Big names in the music industry are bringing attention to the need for copyright reform.  After demanding Trump stop playing his song ‘Dream On’, Steven Tyler surprised the public when he announced the move was not a political one. The songwriter was standing up for his right to fair compensation, following suit after other artists like Taylor Swift. Swift famously withheld her music from Apple in June after Apple announced they would be offering a free 3-month trial during which they would not be paying artists for their music.2

Congress has not kept up to date with advances in technology causing songwriters, producers and artists to suffer. Congress passed the first federal copyright act in 1790; it was first amended to include protection for musical compositions in 1831. Despite many amendments, federal copyright laws do not fully protect music artists’ intellectual property rights. For instance, sound recordings created before February 15, 1972 are not protected. Additionally, these laws do not apply to music on terrestrial radio broadcasters and the government rate setting for royalties does not reflect fair market value.3

“According to the Supreme Court, copyright is intended to increase ‘the harvest of knowledge’ by assuring creators ‘a fair return for their labors’”.4 Enforcing a royalty rate standard that is below fair market value does not meet this standard.5 These laws minimize music artists control and capacity to maximize the value of their works. Intellectual property protection is crucial to the success of this industry. Ensuring artists will be fairly compensated will help to keep the industry thriving. Supporting this industry is important especially to cities like Nashville whose livelihood largely depends on the music industry.

U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte planted the seed for change in Congress back in 2013. Since then, the House Judiciary Committee has been focusing on “whether our copyright laws are still working in the digital age to reward creativity and innovation in order to ensure these crucial industries can thrive.” 6

Additionally, new platforms such as Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and Apple Music have essentially negated former copyright laws. Since these media outlets are the future, songwriters, producers and artists are standing up for reform. The terrestrial radio broadcasters exemption under the Copyright Act is a largely contested issue.7 The Fair Play Fair Pay Act is a potential solution.8 It would require radio stations to pay musicians royalties for playing their music, establish a fair market value standard for royalties and extend the act to protect artists of sound recordings made prior to 1972.

Congress is currently working to clear up many issues in the music market place beyond those mentioned. The U.S. Copyright Office produced a thorough report in February of this year outlining how the industry can move forward.9

 


  1. Malorie McCall, Steven Tyler Writes Copyright Essay After Donald Trump Song Drama, Billboard (Oct. 15, 2015, 6:03 PM), http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/6730193/steven-tyler-aerosmith-donald-trump-essay [http://perma.cc/S229-LT57].

  2. Hugh McIntyre, Taylor Swift’s Letter to Apple: Stern, Polite And Necessary, Forbes (June 21, 2015, 9:22 PM), http://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2015/06/21/taylor-swifts-letter-to-apple-stern-polite-and-necessary/ [http://perma.cc/2EF5-W53E].

  3. U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright and the Music Marketplace (2015), available at http://copyright.gov/policy/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf [http://perma.cc/9USE-7WDR].

  4. U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright and the Music Marketplace (2015), available at http://copyright.gov/policy/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf [http://perma.cc/9USE-7WDR].

  5. See 17 U.S.C. § 114-15.

  6. Nate Rau, Music Copyright Reform Takes Center Stage in Nashville, USA Today (Sept. 21, 2015, 3:02 PM) http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/09/21/music-copyright-reform-nashville/72569754/ [http://perma.cc/NK9U-S2AH].

  7. U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright and the Music Marketplace (2015), available at http://copyright.gov/policy/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf [http://perma.cc/9USE-7WDR].

  8. H.R. 1733, 114th Cong. (2015-2016) https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1733/text [http://perma.cc/5NF7-AW2F]; Randy Lewis, Fair Play, Fair Pay Act of 2015 Would Require Radio to pay for Music, Los Angeles Times (April 13, 2015, 2:15 PM), http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/posts/la-et-ms-fair-play-fair-pay-act-congress-radio-royalties-20150413-story.html [http://perma.cc/KLD9-V44H].

  9. U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright and the Music Marketplace (2015), available at http://copyright.gov/policy/musiclicensingstudy/copyright-and-the-music-marketplace.pdf [http://perma.cc/9USE-7WDR].

Carly Kugler

Carly Kugler is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.